An official from the Village of Obetz is warning that Columbus Crew SC could be evicted from its current training facility, unless ownership agrees to bring Cleveland Browns events to the village.
While home matches are played at MAPFRE Stadium, the Crew conducts training at a sports complex in nearby Obetz. The club’s option to extend its lease in Obetz expired in late 2018, and since then the two parties have been trying to negotiate a new agreement as the Crew continue to use the facility on a month-to-month lease.
With negotiations failing to make progress, Obetz is attempting to include the Browns in new agreement with the Crew. The Crew is backed by an investor group led by Jimmy and Dee Haslam, who also own the Browns. Obetz is seeking to use this connection to facilitate Browns events, specifically something along the lines of a mini-training camp or skills competition, at the complex. Otherwise, the Crew could be asked to leave the facility in December, according to village administrator and economic development director Rod Davisson.
For its part, the Crew contends that it wants to remain in Obetz until a proposed training academy at the MAPFRE Stadium site is completed. However, the club has not committed to following through on the village’s request regarding the Browns. More from the Columbus Dispatch:
“Those events need to be substantial,” [Davisson] said. “It’s got to be something meaningful, something people want to see, like a (Browns) training camp, like a (Browns) skills competition.”…
“The Village of Obetz has been a great partner for our team,” Peter John-Baptiste, the teams’ vice president of communications, said in an email. “They’ve stuck with the team through the uncertainty of the last few years and their efforts and patience is much appreciated.
“Continuing to train in Obetz for the next couple years before our new planned facility is complete would be optimal for our team. We’ve made recent investments in the facility with the intent of staying and we’d love to reach an agreement.”
The Browns have offered to host an Obetz youth football camp, which typically involves active and former players, but not a team training excursion, John-Baptiste said.
Long term, the Crew is eyeing a move of training facilities as part of a broader project that includes a new stadium. Under that scenario, the Crew would construct a new soccer-specific stadium in Columbus’s Arena District while the area surrounding MAPFRE Stadium is redeveloped as part of a project that includes new training space. However, land acquisition for the Arena District site still has to be finalized, and a task force has been formed to consider the future of the land under consideration for the new training academy.
Photo courtesy Columbus Crew.